The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation plagued by war and civil strife for decades, possesses an estimated $24 Trillion in rare mineral and natural resource wealth. The highest rates of sexual violence in recorded history, child slavery and populations held captive to warlords and a government struggling towards relevance and justice.
Every electronic device contains rare earth minerals, or more appropriately 'blood minerals." First world problems revolve around optimizing download speeds, racing to upgrade apps, a general irritation with Mark Zuckerberg for changing Facebook's layout, and wondering what lucky girl will marry Mashable's Pete Cashmore. Economists, politicians, and hacks of all trades continuously argue about potential solutions for America's "China" problem.
The solutions consistently lack innovation and entirely focus on the retail side of the problem. Prices at WalMart and CostCo will only dip so far. China's state-owned businesses for energy are a spreading influence. Money talks. And they are the only major player paying attention to the "back of the house." Every successful restaurateur will tell you profit is made behind the scenes. How much are your staples? Reducing overhead and man hours. Building an efficient workspace. Comprehensive employee training. It's not how many tables you have, it's how many times a day you can turn those tables and send every customer away satisfied that matters.
The U.S. Congress and the president -- partisan affiliations are interchangeable here -- clearly understand very little about how to run an operation on such a large-scale. Our nation's desire to conserve energy, build smarter energy grids in our localities, and be more responsible begins not here -- but at the Federal level. China is WalMart to America's Target Superstore. Sure, the quality at Target is better but if WalMart beats the price every time...
China understands this. They have multiple partnerships in Congo. They acquire gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten, cobalt and carbonatite at the lowest prices in the world. Every dime they spend allows, even fuels, the catastrophic violence in Congo. Every day this continues, they grow increasingly influential. They maximize their leverage over the United States and other Western nations. China doesn't ask questions about labor conditions or environmental impact. China could care less if the second largest rainforest in the world is on the brink of destruction, as long as the timber and minerals flow.
China doesn't ask about the 1,152 women and girls, aged 15-49, that are brutally raped there ever day. China doesn't ask about the rapes of all children, or of men. China only needs to know the minerals will be delivered. China is the ultimate honeybadger.
By contrast, the people of the United States understand the environment must be preserved. Agriculture management, at small family owned farms and enormous corporate owned facilities, continue to develop and improve best practices. We recycle. We drive vehicles far more fuel-efficient than our grandparents did. Individuals, corporations and communities preserve and conserve green space.
Unfortunately, obsession with the retail economics prevents substantive conversations. Until our Federal Reserve Chairman, the president and the Congress stop the endless machinations over Quantitative Easing and start talking about investing our ingenuity, our capital and our human resources into beating China on the wholesale side of business, they should not be taken seriously. Likewise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers should not advocate against regulations, simply so they can be more like China. Do they seriously want to fuel mass and systemic rape? Genocide? Of course not.
Like the Congo, the United States has enormous resource wealth. Natural gas, coal and petroleum are well-known and the infrastructure to further utilize these resources in the short-term is already in place. Technology is driving the future. The rare earth mineral trade resemble the blood diamond trade. Wealthy elitists look the other way as slave labor picks rocks, suffering increases exponentially until finally the collective social consciousness force-closes the practice. Business adapts and society moves on.
The cost to certify minerals conflict-free is approximately a penny per product. It won't happen overnight, or even with much-needed SEC and other regulations to limit the practices China is comfortable with. It requires companies to do the right thing before it's popular. Companies like Quantum Rare Earth Developments that are here in North America, exploring our own resources. Projects in Canada and Nebraska are promising.
Solving our energy problems, our economic problems does not have to begin and end with China. We can and should compete with them for every dime. For every innovation. The United States is a beacon of individual freedom and liberty. Human rights advocates must recognize there will be no utopia. Capitalists must lead on labor equality and safety. Electric cars on the road today are fueled as much by sexual violence and slavery, as they are by the cobalt that keeps emissions low. There must be a balance between budget-breaking union pensions and tacitly supporting slavery and profound human suffering.
Partisanship is not without benefits. Robust debates are necessary. But the goals must be clear. Our charge is to restore balance to our lives, our liberty, our nation and our economy. Ethically sourced, responsibly produced and market ready energy and commodities will strengthen us as a people and ultimately, our rival China, will be made better as well.
Lead, and they shall follow.